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February | 2013
Smith receives top national honor
WANDA LAUKKANEN | If it hadn’t
been for a stint in a hospital cancer ward
with dying patients, Pacific University
professor Dennis Smith might have chosen
a different field.
Smith, who has taught in the College
of Optometry since 1991, was honored for
his teaching career this past fall at annual
meeting of the American Academy of
Optometry, receiving the Michael G.
Harris Family Award for Excellence in
Optometric Education.
The national honor is given to only
one faculty member from among the 20
optometry colleges in the United States and
two in Canada, effectively declaring the
recipient the national professor of the year
for optometric education.
Originally from the Southeast, Smith
Photo by Parrish Evans
Professor Dennis Smith is honored for his teaching by the American Academy of Optometry.
a glorified janitor, doing the nasty stuff
weeks on a cancer ward while someone was
nobody else wanted to do.
on vacation.
“I was fortunate to work with a lot of
“I thought, ‘Oh my god, I can’t do
University in Maryland, majoring in
docs and nurses who were used to teaching
this.’ … The emergency room was great,
biology and chemistry. At the same time,
and training residents. I guess because I was
but the slow death on the cancer ward was
he worked full time in a teaching hospital’s
a student they took a shine to me, and I was
emotionally draining.”
emergency ward.
really thinking I wanted to go into some
did his undergraduate work at Towson
“I was working my way through college,”
he said.
“I was basically a nurse’s aide, basically
medical field.”
However, Smith said, his outlook
changed a bit after he worked about two
So, when Smith got back to work in
the emergency room he talked to other
employees about medical fields and had an
See SMITH, page 2 |
Smith: ‘I love interacting with the students’
Continued from Page 1
Smith earned a doctor of optometry
Smith said. “Students always make you
degree in 1981 from Southern College
think, and they always make you stay right
ophthalmologist tell him that if he had to do
of Optometry in Memphis, Tenn., after
on the edge of the profession, because that’s
it all over again, he would be an optometrist.
obtaining a scholarship from the U.S. Air
where they are. It’s always new for them.
Smith started at looking at the possibility.
“I decided that was what I wanted to do,
and the rest of it is history,” he said.
Being sent to the cancer ward, he said,
was a definite turning point.
Force that paid for his schooling.
He served 23 years in the Air Force, 10
“I like that it forces me to stay very
current,” he added. “But, most of all, I
active duty and 13 in the reserves, retiring
like dealing with students. They’re excited,
as a lieutenant colonel.
they’re excitable, they make everything
He came to Pacific while in the Air
exciting. It’s just a lot fun.”
“It was one of those really fortunate
Force and earned two master’s degrees
Outside of Pacific, Smith is involved
events,” he said with a rueful laugh. “I’m
at the university, one in physiological
with a number of eye care programs. He has
grateful for that miserable experience.”
optics and one in clinical optometry, then
been a consultant for the Virginia Garcia
returned in 1991 and has taught at Pacific
Memorial Health Center, which has several
captured Smith’s heart has been its focus on
ever since. Currently he teaches courses
facilities in Washington County.
the human element, he said.
at the College of Optometry in systemic
The aspect of optometry that really
He also is a senior fellow for the World
disease, physical diagnosis and advance case
Council of Optometry and traveled to
work very closely with your patients. It
analysis. Smith also lectures in the School of
Brazil with his wife, Nada Lingel, also a
demands that you take time and develop
Physical Therapy.
Pacific professor of optometry, for six weeks
“I like that it’s a profession where you
good relationships with your patients. And
His teaching has garnered him many
that’s the thing that really appealed to me
awards at Pacific, including the Junior
after working in the hospital where you
Faculty Award in 1993, Optometry Faculty
really never had the opportunity to know
Merit Award in 1995, the Didactic Faculty
someone particularly well. In optometry,
of the Year in 2004 and the Teacher of the
you have to. I think it’s the profession for
Year in 1992, 1993 and 1995.
those of us who just like people,” he said.
“I love interacting with the students,”
to help develop college optometry curricula
at several universities.
Smith also enjoys guitars and has built
several from scratch.
“That’s been a life-long love,” he said,
adding that once he retires, he hopes to be a
full-time luthier.
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giveaways and demonstrations in using the Design Your Own Store. |
Faculty & staff highlights
KARL CITEK, Optometry, authored a first-person account
Former Pacific University Professor JAY THOMAS has been
in the December 2012 edition of the American Optometric
posthumously honored for his contributions by the American
Association News of a trip he made with more than 70 other
Board of Professional Psychology.
health professionals, students and volunteers to Vietnam in
The organization recently awarded the 2013 Russell J.
August 2012. He was accompanied by several Pacific students as
Bent Award for Distinguished Service and Contributions
well as alumni. The group performed vision screenings to more
to the American Board of Professional Psychology to him
than 1,000 patients.
posthumously. Thomas spent more than 13 years as a member
of the Pacific University faculty before retiring in 2012. He
CATHY EVANS, Optometry, has been elected to the
helped found Pacific’s master’s degree in counseling, mentored
American Board of Opticianry and will begin serving a two-
students and led student teams in a variety of community
year term in April. ABO is a national professional organization
service activities. He also served as an assistant dean of the
dedicated to certifying opticians.
School of Professional Psychology and was director of the
school’s counseling program.
LEN HUA, Optometry, along with several other College of
Thomas was named Distinguished University Professor in
Optometry faculty members, was featured in the December 2012
2010, one of the University’s highest honors. In that year, he
edition of the American Optometric Association News. A 2012
also was appointed secretary to the executive committee of the
recipient of a $4,000 Healthy Eyes Healthy People grant offered
American Board of Professional Psychology.
through AOA, Hua is using the funds to help children at Pacific
Eye Clinics located at the Virginia Garcia Clinics.
causes a group of diseases known as Leishmaniasis. More than
JESSICA RITTER, Social Work, has been appointed to the
12 million people currently have the diseases, which are most
board of directors for Children First for Oregon, a child advocacy
prevalent in tropical climates and poverty stricken areas. The grant
organization working in poverty, child welfare and healthcare areas.
was awarded through from the Medical Research Foundation at
Oregon Health Science University.
SIGRID ROBERTS, Pharmacy, has received a $40,000
new investigator grant to study the metabolism of a parasite that
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